He snapped his lighter shut, placed it beside the metronome
on his nightstand. We’d just made love and I was
sitting naked on the edge of his bed, watching the stars
appear. He told me my skin was chatoyant
in the window light, like wet fiddleback maple. I asked him
what chatoyant meant. He grinned and explained
growth distortion, how it could pattern the wood fibers
into flames of alternating tones. I told him
that was nice and he said he could take me to the workshop
for a look around. Show me what he was talking
about. I rolled my eyes. It sounded so boring. But then
he bit into my thigh and said he wanted to
fashion me into a beautiful cello. He drove with both hands
on the wheel and told me he thought of everyone
as instruments. He said his father was filled with knots
like a burl and only good for music boxes
but his mother was quilted beneath her surface, like rippled
river water. Then he just stared ahead at the road
and kept quiet the rest of the way. When we got inside
he felt along the wall and flipped a switch
so I could see the three white torsos, each with a headstock
and fretboard attached to the sternum. They were
displayed on hangers like guitars. I covered my mouth
with a shaking hand, backed away and ran
out to the parking lot. He stood at the door and watched me
squeal away in his pickup. The sky clouded over
as I drove to the police station, all the millions of stars
like birds’ eyes. Like the darkness was sawn
off the trunk of a black walnut tree, then sliced into a veneer.

More Poems by Zack Strait